Head lice are parasitic wingless insects. They live on people's heads and feed on their blood. An adult louse is about the size of a sesame seed. The eggs, called nits, are even smaller - about the size of a knot in thread. Lice and nits are easiest to detect at the neckline and behind the ears.
Head lice are extremely contagious. Close contact or sharing personal belongings, such as hats or hairbrushes, puts people at risk. Children ages 3-11 and their families get head lice most often. Personal hygiene has nothing to do with getting head lice. Head lice do not spread disease.
- Tickling feeling in the hair
- Frequent itching
- Sores from scratching
- Irritability and difficulty sleeping. Head lice are most active in the dark.
Treatment for head lice is recommended for people with an active infestation. All household members and other close contacts should be checked. Anyone who has an active infestation should be treated. All infested people and their bedmates should be treated at the same time.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Head Lice (American Academy of Family Physicians) Available in Spanish
- Head Lice (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Available in Spanish
- Head Lice: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Outcome (American Academy of Dermatology)
- Head Lice: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Available in Spanish
- JAMA Patient Page: Head Lice (American Medical Association) - PDF Available in Spanish
Treatments and Therapies
- Head Lice (Beyond the Basics) (UpToDate)
- Head Lice: Malathion Frequently Asked Questions (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Head Lice: Treatment (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Available in Spanish
- Head Lice: Treatment Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Available in Spanish
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Head Lice (National Institutes of Health)